It might be time for Louis Foster to reset his expectations for his first INDY NXT by Firestone race Sunday on the streets of St. Petersburg.
Foster, from England, will start from the pole for the INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after turning the best lap in qualifying, 1m5.1103s, on Saturday in the No. 26 Copart/USF Pro Championship car fielded by Andretti Autosport. Foster, 19, climbed to INDYCAR’s developmental series this season after winning the USF Pro 2000 Championship in 2022.
Andretti Autosport earned its third pole in the last four INDY NXT by Firestone races at St. Petersburg.
“This was a great, great qualifying session,” Foster said. “A bit more than we expected. We’re going into this weekend with a bit of uncertainty, first time in the championship. I’m over the moon. The guys at Andretti have done an amazing job.”
Jacob Abel, who led Friday practice, continued his strong weekend and will join Foster on the front row of the grid after qualifying second at 1m05.1763s in the No. 51 Abel Motorsports car.
Christian Rasmussen rebounded from an incident that ended his practice early Friday, qualifying third at 1m05.2204s in the No. 6 HMD Motorsports with DCR car. His teammate, Rasmus Lindh, qualified fourth at 1m05.2283s in the No. 10 HMD Motorsports with DCR car.
Kyffin Simpson rounded out the top five at 1m05.2884s in the No. 21 HMD Motorsports with CGR machine. Rookie Nol an Siegel, who led practice Saturday morning, qualified sixth at 1m05.3331s in the No. 39 HMD Motorsports with DCR car.
Just 0.8673s separated the entire 19-car field in qualifying.
The 45-lap (or 55 minutes maximum) race on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit starts at 9:50 a.m. ET Sunday (Live on Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). All drivers are coming to grips with and learning about Firestone tires, the longtime NTT INDYCAR SERIES tire supplier that is new to the developmental series this season.
“The aim will be to win the race from pole,” Foster said. “But it’s going to be the longest race I’ve ever done with 55 minutes, so I’m just going to have to manage the tires, see what they end up like. No one’s done a race on these tires yet, so it’s all going to be brand new to us. We’ll look at some data tonight and see what we can figure out for the morning.”